Patterned after the former Lutheran Bible Institute in Minneapolis (founded in 1919), AFLBS began in 1966 with 13 students and a desire to see God transform young people through His Word. AFLC church founders wanted to establish young Christians in the Word of God before college and help believers to “win, build, and equip” other workers in local churches.
The founding of the Association Free Lutheran Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology, grew out of the need for biblically-trained pastors and Christian workers in the tradition of orthodox Lutheran Pietism. After prayerful consideration, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations proceeded to establish a theological seminary committed to historic Lutheran theology. The Seminary opened its doors to the first class in September, 1964.
The Bible school grew slowly but steadily from its beginnings in 1966. The very next year, AFLBS welcomed thirty-five students to its campus and reached a total of sixty-five by 1970. After only ten years, ninety-five students came to study God’s Word at AFLBS. Throughout the 1990′s, an average of 105 students attended the Bible school each year. Most of the students came from Free Lutheran fellowships in the Midwest – and most ranged between the ages of 18 and 22.
Rev. John Strand was the first AFLBS dean, followed by Richard Snipstead (1968 to 1974), Ken Moland (1975 to 1984), Donald Greven (1985 to 1996), James L. Johnson (1996 to 2006), and Pastor Joel Rolf (elected in 2006). The Faculty includes an average of six full-time instructors – born-again pastor teachers who teach also at the Free Lutheran Seminary – and up to 15 part-time Bible teachers from regional AFLC churches.
In 1965, the AFLC elected its first full-time seminary dean, Dr. Iver B. Olson. In 1971, Rev. Amos O. Dyrud became dean of the Seminary and served until his retirement in 1981. That year Dr. Francis W. Monseth was elected as dean, and served until his death in 2013. Rev. Robert L. Lee currently serves as interim dean.
Enrollment at the Bible School increased from 102 in 1996 to 145 in 1999 to nearly 200 in 2002. In the last ten years, the student body has averaged around 140 students. Approximately 25 percent of AFLBS students come from outside of AFLC churches and youth ministries. Several open doors have brought outstanding Bible students from Latvia, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Brazil. About 80 percent of AFLBS graduates go on to complete four-year degrees at other colleges and universities. AFLBS is pleased that several schools offer exceptional credit transfer – including Crown College, Northwestern College of Roseville, Minn., Concordia University of St. Paul in the Twin Cities area, as well as such well-known Christian colleges around the country as Moody Bible Institute, Concordia-Irvine (CA), Seattle Pacific University, and Geneva College in Pennsylvania. Several public universities have also offer credit transfer.
Regardless of college credit transfer, two years of Bible study at AFLBS bring a life-long value. In Isaiah 55:11, God says that His Word “will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire.” Studying the Bible and cultivating life in Christ brings great fruit, says former AFLBS Dean James L. Johnson, who studied here in the early 1980s. “I came out of Bible school renewed because God’s Word made me new,” Johnson said. “I have given 17 years of my life to secular study, but two years of Bible study made all the difference.”
The vast majority of the graduates of Free Lutheran Seminary serve in pastoral ministry. However, former students are represented in many fields of full-time Christian service in various parts of the world.